Before you head out with your date or loved-one wrapped around your arm, take a moment to consider a few of these tips to keep your special, Valentine’s Day dinner a little more heart-healthy.
1. Sharing Is Caring
It is healthier and always more romantic when you share a main course with your significant other on Valentine’s Day. Not only are you helping yourself by having smaller portions of that decadent dish, you are also helping your other half towards a healthier future. Another great idea may be to split several small dishes or appetizers in place of a three course meal.
2. Choose A Heart-Healthier Cooking Method
Many sit-down restaurants now offer different methods of cooking your protein or vegetables. In these cases, always try to opt for the healthier cooking style, such as grilled, poached or steamed. Even if choosing cooking methods are not listed as an option, it never hurts to ask your server. One style of cooking you should stay away from, for obvious reasons, is anything deep fried, no matter how good it sounds.
3. Ask For The Catch Of The Day
The catch of the day almost always features the freshest and more nutrient-dense ingredients chosen by the chef. These choices, which are not featured on the regular menu, usually highlight the freshness of the protein or vegetables and uses less sauces for flavor. In turn, it also equals less sodium, additives and calories.
4. Choose The Healthier Sauce
Restaurants now offer a wide variety of sides, sauces and dressings. If you have an option between a “clear” or “creamy” base for soups and sauces, be sure to always choose the “clear” option; for example, rather than choosing an Alfredo sauce made with heavy cream and cheese, you may be healthier choosing a tomato-based sauce. Cream-based soups pack on calories, while broth-based soups are the healthier option. Same with cooking sauces and salad dressing – try to avoid the creamy option.
5. Relax And Enjoy
Eat your food slowly, savor every bite, and pay attention to the seasoning and texture of your decadent meal. Studies have shown that those who slowly enjoy their food in a relaxed setting tend to consume fewer calories than those who rush while eating. Besides, it’s Valentine’s Day, not a marathon, so take your time to enjoy this wonderful meal with your significant other.
6. It's Ok To Indulge - In Small Portions
It is always fine to satisfy that sweet tooth every once in a while to prevent a major diet cave-in, but make sure they are in small portions. Many restaurants have small plates or half-order portions for popular dishes. Limit each “dangerous” dish to a maximum of three bites or servings, and ask your loved one to move it out of your reach. Or, you can enjoy the “sharing is caring” technique to share your joy with others as well.
7. Ask For A Takeout Box
One useful trick to control portion size is to ask for a takeout box when the dish is served. Pack half of your dish, and take it home for lunch the following day to resist temptation to pick at your food after feeling full. Not only will you save money on food the next day, you are also helping yourself towards a healthier future.
8. Choose The Healthier Side
Between French fries or a fresh fruit medley, the latter is definitely the healthier option. If your meals come with two small sides, feel free to indulge a bit for one option, but choose a healthy choice for the second. Just like the entrees, be sure to pay attention to the cooking method. For example, just because creamed corn and spinach are made with vegetables does not mean it is healthier than French fries; instead, opt for steamed, poached, or grilled options with no additional sauces.
9. Ask For Items "On The Side"
Often times, the seemingly healthy steamed may actually become detrimental to your waist when it is drenched in calorie-laden butter and dosed in sodium. By asking to have the dressing served on the side on salads, you will have more control of how much dressing goes into your stomach. This idea can also be applied to other food items, such as baked potatoes and sandwiches. Other common toppings that serve as health traps, such as bacon, cheese, fried wonton crisps, or sour cream, can also be served on the side.
10. Choose The Healthier Drink
Just like choosing an entrée, there are also healthier options for drinks and sides. It would be wise to stick to the no-fail rules of opting for clear drinks (versus creamy drinks), and stay away from fried sides. Generally, alcoholic drinks contain higher calorie content than non-alcoholic drinks, and sweetened much more calories than unsweetened drinks. If alcohol is ordered, try to choose red wine (for its antioxidant properties) or a Bloody Mary (for the celery and tomato nutrients) rather than a cocktail or margarita (which is both full of added sugars).